MANILA, Philippines – The chief of the police’s Aviation Security Unit in the National Capital Region (NCR) was relieved on Monday, November 9, as criticism mounts over the police’s alleged involved in a scam where bullets are dropped into the bags of unsuspecting passengers.
Aviation Security Group head Chief Superintendent Pablo Francis Balagtas confirmed the relief of Senior Superintendent Ricardo Layug, Jr. in a phone interview with Rappler. Layug will be replaced by Senior Superintendent Adolfo Samala, said Balagtas.
Balagtas said the movements were “part of a rotation” on the Philippine National Police (PNP)’s part. Layug has been chief of the Aviation Security Unit of NCR since late December 2014 or early 2015. Balagtas was appointed to his post a few months after.
The NCR unit of the Aviation Security Group has been under fire after subsequent cases of ammunition found in the bags of passengers going through security checks in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), Metro Manila’s main aviation gateway.
Government officials led by Department of Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya had earlier said data does not support speculation that a syndicate is behind the scam. According to a report from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, however, a National Bureau of Investigation-led probe has indicated early on the presence of a syndicate in airports, composed of various personnel.
Aviation police from the PNP are not the front liners of airport security, but they step in once Office of Transportation Security (OTS) personnel find contraband in the bags of passengers. OTS personnel are also being investigated for their supposed involvement in the scam, which has grabbed local and international headlines.
Balagtas said Layug’s relief does not immediately mean he is involved in the purported scam but said personnel from NCR aviation police are also current being probed.
Aside from Layug, Balagtas said Layug’s deputy was also relieved. Some 7 personnel from the Aviation Security Group have since been relieved, said Balagtas, for their failure to report on incidents of intercepted ammunition in airports. – Rappler.com